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Book of Days – July 25 – Death of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Tuesday, July 25, 2017, 1:01 AM

On this date in 1834, the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge died at the age of 61.  Today’s writing is Coleridge’s great epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

For the text, see The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Book of Days – June 24 – Fall of Stirling Castle
Monday, July 24, 2017, 10:22 AM

On this date in 1304, Stirling Castle fell to the forces of King Edward I of England, who had laid siege to the castle in April of that year.  Stirling Castle was the last holdout in Edward’s effort to gain control of Scotland, in a six-year effort that began with his defeat of William Wallace during the battle of Falkirk in 1298.  Unable to achieve surrender of the castle, Edward had commissioned his chief engineer, Master James of St. George, to design and build what is believed to be the largest trebuchet ever, which was named Lupus Guerre (or War Wolf in English).  The massive siege engine required 30 wagons to transport when disassembled and was estimated to measure between 300 and 400 feet in length (that is, at least the length of an American football field, perhaps as much as 1/3 longer).  It took five master carpenters and 49 laborers three months to build.  It was capable of accurately hurling missiles that weighed up to 300 pounds.

The castle’s governor, William Oliphant, surrendered on this date in 1304 and was imprisoned in the Tower of London.  He ultimately switched sides in the War of Scottish Independence, supporting the English, along with most of the rest of Scotland, William Wallace being the exception. In 1309, Oliphant was back at Stirling Castle, now in service to King Edward II of England.  In 1312, he was captured by the forces of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, and sent into exile to the western isles, where he is believed to have died as a Scottish prisoner.

I could find no public domain poetry related to the Siege of Stirling Castle in 1304 nor to War Wolf.

Edward I and James of St. George Book of Days   June 24   Fall of Stirling Castle

King Edward I of England with his chief engineer, Master James of St. George

Book of Days – July 22 – Birth of Emma Lazarus
Saturday, July 22, 2017, 1:01 AM

On this date in 1849, American poet Emma Lazarus was born in New York City into a a large Sephardic-Ashkenazi Jewish family.  She is best known for her poem “The New Colossus”, written in 1883 to raise money for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.  In 1903, Lazarus’ poem was engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted to the pedestal.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Book of Days – July 21 – The First Western Showdown
Friday, July 21, 2017, 1:01 AM

This post is different from most.  It is an 1883 account of the first western showdown, which occurred on this date in 1865 in the streets of Springfield, Missouri, between Davis Kasey “Little Dave” Tutt, who had served in the 27th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, CSA in the just ended war, and a Union teamster, wagonmaster, and, perhaps, spy named James Butler Hickok, better known as “Wild Bill”.

The Killing of David Tutt, 1865, Springfield, Greene County, Missouri

From “History of Greene County, Missouri,” St. Louis: Western Historical Company, 1883.

For some time after the close of the war Springfield was the resort of many hard characters. Adventurers of every sort came in and met the ruffians of both armies, who lately disbanded, were seeking a livelihood by any means not involving hard work. Among those who were in the town in the summer of 1865 was one J. B. Hickok, who came to be known as “Wild Bill,” and as such has been made the hero of divers improbable adventures set forth in certain flashy, sensational publications. Hickok had been in the Federal service in Southwest Missouri and Northern Arkansas, as a scout for the army of the frontier, and in the performance of his duties had grown to be well acquainted with danger, and being by nature a ruffian he soon became a desperado, a drunken, swaggering fellow, who delighted when “on a spree” to frighten nervous men and timid women. After settling in Springfield a favorite diversion of his was to ride his horse on sidewalks and into saloons, hotels, stores and other public places, and make the animal lie down and perform other tricks, to the infinate delight, no doubt, of the proprietors, none of whom, unfortunately, had grit enough to blow the bully’s head off.


Book of Days – July 20 – Death of Jean Ingelow
Thursday, July 20, 2017, 1:01 AM

The English poet and novelist died on this date in 1897.  For today’s writing, her poem, Songs of Seven.

Songs Of Seven

(Narrated on Librivox)



There’s no dew left on the daisies and clover,
There’s no rain left in heaven:
I’ve said my “seven times” over and over,
Seven times one are seven.

I am old, so old, I can write a letter;
My birthday lessons are done;
The lambs play always, they know no better;
They are only one times one.

O moon! in the night I have seen you sailing
And shining so round and low;
You were bright! ah bright! but your light is failing –
You are nothing now but a bow.

You moon, have you done something wrong in heaven
That God has hidden your face?
I hope if you have you will soon be forgiven,
And shine again in your place.

O velvet bee, you’re a dusty fellow,
You’ve powdered your legs with gold!
O brave marsh marybuds, rich and yellow,
Give me your money to hold!

O columbine, open your folded wrapper,
Where two twin turtle-doves dwell!
O cuckoo pint, toll me the purple clapper
That hangs in your clear green bell!

And show me your nest with the young ones in it;
I will not steal them away;
I am old! you may trust me, linnet, linnet –
I am seven times one to-day.


Book of Days – July 18 – Birth of William Makepeace Thackeray
Tuesday, July 18, 2017, 1:01 AM

On this date in 1811, the novelist and poet, William Makepeace Thackeray was born in Calcutta, India.

The Cane-Bottom’d Chair

In tattered old slippers that toast at the bars,
And a ragged old jacket perfumed with cigars,
Away from the world and its toils and its cares,
I’ve a snug little kingdom up four pair of stairs.

To mount to this realm is a toil, to be sure,
But the fire there is bright and the air rather pure;
And the view I behold on a sunshiny day
Is grand through the chimney-pots over the way.


Book of Days – July 4 – The Declaration of Independence
Tuesday, July 4, 2017, 1:01 AM


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.


Book of Days – July 3 – The Third Day of the Battle of Gettysburg
Monday, July 3, 2017, 10:12 AM

154 years ago today, the final day of the battle of Gettysburg was fought. Today’s poem is Herman Melville’s take on Pickett’s Charge.



O Pride of the days in prime of the months
  Now trebled in great renown,
When before the ark of our holy cause
	Fell Dagon down-
Dagon foredoomed, who, armed and targed,
Never his impious heart enlarged
Beyond that hour; God walled his power,
And there the last invader charged.

He charged, and in that charge condensed
  His all of hate and all of fire;
He sought to blast us in his scorn,
	And wither us in his ire.
Before him went the shriek of shells-
Aerial screamings, taunts and yells;
Then the three waves in flashed advance
  Surged, but were met, and back they set:
Pride was repelled by sterner pride,
  And Right is a strong-hold yet.

Before our lines it seemed a beach
  Which wild September gales have strown
With havoc on wreck, and dashed therewith
	Pale crews unknown-
Men, arms, and steeds. The evening sun
Died on the face of each lifeless one,
And died along the winding marge of fight
	And searching-parties lone.

Sloped on the hill the mounds were green,
  Our centre held that place of graves,
And some still hold it in their swoon,
  And over these a glory waves.
The warrior-monument, crashed in fight,
Shall soar transfigured in loftier light,
	A meaning ampler bear;
Soldier and priest with hymn and prayer
Have laid the stone, and every bone
	Shall rest in honor there.

Book of Days – July 1 – The Battle of Malvern Hill
Saturday, July 1, 2017, 9:34 AM

On July 1, 1862, the Union and Confederate armies met for a bloody battle at Malvern Hill, also known as the battle of Poindexter’s Farm, near Richmond, Virginia, being the last of the Seven Days Battles, which was the climax of Union General George B. McClellan’s failed Peninsula Campaign, the object of which was the Confederate capital.  When Confederate commander-in-chief Joseph Johnston was injured during the campaign, Robert E. Lee assumed command and it was he whom McClellan faced during the battle of Malvern Hill.  While the Union achieved a tactical victory, its object was thwarted.  Lee was hailed for saving Richmond and McClellan was criticized for not being present on the battlefield, a charge which would continue to follow him thereafter, including during his failed presidential campaign two years later.  The battle resulted in more than 8,600 casualties.

Today’s writing is Herman Melville’s poem written shortly after the battle, Malvern Hill.

The Librivox recording.

Ye elms that wave on Malvern Hill
In prime of morn and May,
Recall ye how McClellan’s men
Here stood at bay?
While deep within yon forest dim
Our rigid comrades lay—
Some with the cartridge in their mouth,
Others with fixed arms lifted South—
Invoking so
The cypress glades? Ah wilds of woe!

The spires of Richmond, late beheld
Through rifts in musket-haze,
Were closed from view in clouds of dust
On leaf-walled ways,
Where streamed our wagons in caravan;
And the Seven Nights and Days
Of march and fast, retreat and fight,
Pinched our grimed faces to ghastly plight—
Does the elm wood
Recall the haggard beards of blood?

The battle-smoked flag, with stars eclipsed
We followed (it never fell!)—
In silence husbanded our strength—
Received their yell;
Till on this slope we patient turned
With cannon ordered well;
Reverse we proved was not defeat;
But ah, the sod what thousands meet!—
Does Malvern Wood
Bethink itself, and muse and brood?

We elms of Malvern Hill
Remember every thing;
But sap the twig will fill;
Wag the world how it will,
Leaves must be green in Spring.

Book of Days – June 29 – St. Peter and St. Paul
Thursday, June 29, 2017, 6:48 AM

June 29 is the date on which the Church commemorates Saints Peter and Paul.  In the past, the Church of England reserved this date for the memory of Saint Peter only.  Today’s writting is John Keble’s St. Peter’s Day.

When Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping. Acts xii. 26.

Thou thrice denied, yet thrice belov’d,
Watch by Thine own forgiven friend;
In sharpest perils faithful prov’d,
Let his soul love Thee to the end.

The prayer is heard — else why so deep
His slumber on the eve of death?
And wherefore smiles he in his sleep
As one who drew celestial breath?

He loves and is belov’d again —
Can his soul choose but be at rest?
Sorrow hath fled away, and Pain
Dares not invade the guarded nest.


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